Perhaps you’re an aspiring artist, a budding photographer, or you just don't like working for someone else? Starting to work for yourself (aka freelancing) can seem like a daunting undertaking — where do you even start? Here are some things to consider that will help you on your freelancing journey in 2021.
Why would I want to do freelance work?
Figuring out the "why" you are exploring freelancing is important as it's easy to start but hard to stay on this course. Is it for extra money? Are you thinking about creating a business in the next couple of year? Do you have a skill or service that you want to provide to others? Knowing your "why" can help you stick it out when the going gets tough. Different people have different reasons for doing freelance work, and more often than not there are personal reasons as well. For some, it may be an option to make use of otherwise neglected skills to supplement their main income, a so called ‘side-hustle’, or it may be a full-time pursuit of passion that replaces normal work, or for some people it may just be a creative outlet which is also productive. Whatever your reason, freelance work is an opportunity to explore different possibilities for income, as well as provide you with more freedom to pursue work you enjoy and value.
Identify your unique selling point
At the end of the day, you are likely to find freelance work if you have something of value to offer to someone, whether that is your products or your skills. If you are reading this, there’s a good chance you have an idea of your own unique skills that are marketable, but if not, don’t despair. The main question to ask yourself is “what can I do, or provide, which most other people can’t?” This is your first step to success as a freelancer. Find out whether your freelancing efforts are viewed as valuable/worthwhile by prospective customers or not. Most importantly, these skills have to be packaged in a way which shows you are confident in your skills; if you don’t believe in your worth, then how will someone else believe in you?
The next step is to identify how your skills can translate into a marketable service or product idea that holds value to others. For some people, this can be extremely obvious, such as a photography enthusiast being able to pick up photoshoot work for weddings or other events. In other cases, this may be difficult and you will need to do market research yourself, such as enjoying working with your hands. For example, landscaping or gardening. Or if you have an interest in electronics, you could consider learning computer repair and generating value through offering repair services or flipping computers yourself. Setting up websites for small businesses are increasingly in demand as more are seeking to bring their businesses online where customers are. If you are not a software developer, you can consider being proficient at tools such as Wix which only requires you to have a good eye for design to launch a website. Alternatively, being a UX/UI designer can be equally lucrative and tools like Figma and/or Invision are a good place to start.
Find a niche which you believe you can deliver value in, a specific business problem that your skills can solve. In many cases, great success comes from identifying valuable business problems, or providing value to existing business that others aren’t aware of. Good leads to start from can be researching what business weaknesses are critiqued by professionals in industry, as well as what tasks are asked for by certain jobs requiring skills similar to yours, and using that as a base to brainstorm from. Be careful in your research if the intended work area is saturated, as being the first to fill a niche is a huge advantage.
Ultimately, your goal is to develop your skills further and become specialised, so that few others can offer your exact services, giving you a foothold for steady freelance work. Knowing your goal early is helpful to fast-track your freelance career as you can be more focused in your work direction. However, it's worth recognising that some markets are not constrained by geography (e.g. designing or setting up a website for businesses) and therefore you can still create a viable freelancing business due to the sheer size of the opportunity despite having many others offer the same services
Improving your skills and building up your freelance business
Doing well in freelance work requires having specialist skills which you can use to deliver excellent work — your success is dependent on your performance. If you are good, you are more likely to get repeat business or referrals that will help you succeed. Continually improving your skills is a must.
Regardless of what freelance work and skills you are trying to develop, whether it is writing, or graphic design, or IT related, the experience and insights of others in your field of knowledge can prove invaluable. Medium is an open source blog platform where industry leaders, specialists and newcomers alike share their ideas and insights, an excellent resource to deepen your understanding and refine your skills. Take advantage of free online courses such as the Google Digital Garage which offers completely free courses to help grow your digital skillset, or find free courses on Coursera to help grow your understanding of your subject area.
Finding work can be the most difficult part for many, and perseverance is a must for freelance work. A great platform to advertise your services on is Upwork, which allows you to find projects to try work on, or let employers find you. It is a global platform which means you are not constricted to only advertising your service in New Zealand. There is an immense range of categories which your freelancing value can fit under, and it streamlines matching skills to work for both you and an employer. Other great platforms include Freelancer which operates similarly, and FlexJobs to find screened listings. Don’t hesitate to check traditional job listing websites for short contract work, and use professional platforms such as LinkedIn to build a network for leverage to advertise yourself. For some people, visiting local business and getting in touch with professionals can also be viable, but be realistic and respectful in your search.
In the beginning, a lot of practice will probably be needed in your own time, such as translating books to improve your speed and accuracy if you offer translation services. It is important to build a portfolio of past work to highlight and affirm your skills and the quality of your work to help make obtaining work easier, with Fiverr being a good platform to try micro-jobs. In fields where this is not possible, volunteer work may be a fulfilling avenue that gives you solid references to start professional work. Cliches exist for a reason, practice truly does make perfect.
Managing your finances is a part of freelance work that can be a great hassle and challenge for many, especially when it comes to tax. Hnry is a great app and platform to detach the financial chores associated with freelancing, allowing you to focus on your work. All tax requirements and documents will be sorted out for you, and easy invoicing and quoting are available, all for 1% of your income (which is claimed as a business expense when filing taxes!) capped at a maximum of $2000 per year. The major advantage Hnry has over other service providers such as Xero, is that Hnry is tailor-made for freelancers and provides a much more comprehensive service at lower prices.
If you would prefer to organise your finances yourself, the key things to learn is how to prepare quotes and invoices, as well as setting aside appropriate amounts after invoice payment for tax purposes. Although it may seem complicated, given enough time these are possible to do yourself. Examples of quotes can be found online, and the bare minimum usually includes a detailed job description, breakdown of required goods, services and time, an accurate total cost estimate, as well as all relevant contact and business information.
Invoicing is similar, and a comprehensive guide to invoicing is provided by Xero here, with many examples to follow alongside free templates online. Tax can be much more difficult, and it pays to carefully examine all the information provided by the IRD. As always, it is best to err on the side of caution and separate your income that goes towards tax after payment, so that you can always meet your tax obligations.
In many freelancing roles, your greatest assets will involve the products and equipment you use to provide services. Protecting these assets against mistakes or circumstances out of your control can be important, and business insurance can cover many of your work-related assets more effectively than personal insurance policies. Insurance to cover the operations of your freelancing business provides great peace of mind, especially if you worry about costly blunders down the line. Whether it is a business vehicle, home equipment or inventory, consider what the right business insurance might be for you. If in doubt, speak to a business insurance adviser such as GYB or Baileys Insurance. We all know that managing insurance policies can be a real hassle especially when you have a bunch of them — Quashed helps hundreds of Kiwis to keep all your insurance policies in one place. Check it out today.
Well, what else are you waiting for?
There is no better time than now to start trying your hand at freelancing in 2021, so make a start and see how you go. Nothing ventured nothing gained! Freelancing can be incredibly rewarding, however it's all up to you to seek out work and create your own successes.